Flapjacks and Feudalism

Cover of Flapjacks and Feudalism

Social Mobility and Class in The Archers

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(19 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxxiv
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Section 1 It's Who You Know, and What You Know About Them

Abstract

The Grundys are the alternative world of Ambridge. Invariably down on their luck, often portrayed as lazy if not feckless and usually incompetent. This chapter speaks up for the downtrodden of Borsetshire and in particular the Grundys. It looks at the development of the Grundy family in The Archers over almost 50 years now. It relates key elements in their lives, looking not just at the class struggle in the village but also the importance of gender in this. It draws on key players in the Grundy story from the 1970s including the late radio DJ John Peel who was for a time an enthusiast for The Archers and who played Eddie Grundy's records on his BBC Radio One show. It also looks at the views of key Archers figures such as Vanessa Whitburn and Keri Davies and how they have approached the Grundys. It uses the work of Marx and Engels to try to explain how it is that the Grundys moved from being small farmers to landless labourers. What the chapter doesn't do is to map out a strategy for the liberation of the Grundys from their oppression. It does however look forward to a world turned upside down when at 19.02 hours on a weekday evening on BBC Radio 4 we hear a programme called not The Archers, but The Grundys.

Abstract

As a network analyst, I am fascinated by social interactions. The ways in which people connect with one another and exercise power and authority by deploying different forms of capital. This piece returns to the underlying and changing kinship network structure of the village of Ambridge over time, explores the role of ‘kin-keeping’ as deployed by the matriarchs Peggy and Jill. I am most interested in the ways in which gender as performed by the women of the village intersects with abundance or lack of other forms of capital, and how far inequalities persist and why. It is clear that there is an intergenerational power dynamic at play in the spreading or hoarding of the various dimensions of power layered together and how forms of capital intersect for protection or precarity. Social and cultural capital at birth in the village is defining in terms of both ‘serious’ life outcomes as well as how more minor infractions and foibles are viewed. Further, I return to discuss how my various network-based predictions have fared over time. The Headlam Hypothesis and the fate of Ed Grundy – King of Ambridge are revisited and their durability explored.

Section 2 The Fall of the House of Aldridge, the Rise of the Oppressed Grundys?

Abstract

This paper presents a case study concerning the recovery of a young woman's wellbeing after a personal crisis in the summer of 2019. The analytical approach used draws on a conceptual model where wellbeing is a balance point between an individual's resources and the challenges they face. Therefore, stable wellbeing is when individuals have the physical, psychological and social resources they need to meet the physical, psychological and or social challenges they face. When individuals have more challenges than resources, the balance dips, along with their wellbeing, and vice versa. After outlining the theoretical base of the model, this paper presents a highly subjective analysis of the challenges faced by and resources available to the young woman in the case study. The daughter of a pig man and a Horrobin, she had worked three jobs in order to purchase a house for her young family. Her plans were precipitously destroyed leading to a breakdown in her marriage. This paper considers her path to recuperation in the aftermath of the crisis with a reference to her notion that ‘security is everything.’

Abstract

The chapter explores how the recent storyline about modern slavery has landed in Ambridge, commending the writers and producers for the job they have done in engaging NGOs and pressure groups active in this area. It situates the plight of ‘The Horses’ as hidden in plain sight and probes the dark side of this important social issue in the context of how far the systematic exploitation of vulnerable people provides a ground floor within a profoundly unequal economy. Modern slavery speaks of a wider form of neoliberal necropolitics – in which logics of accumulation and hierarchies are played out on the bodies of workers. In this form of political economy social and emotional vulnerability and economic precarity combine together, trapping those unable to escape exploitation. It explored the policy context for the Modern Slavery Act and the assessment of how many people are enslaved in the UK. I also make the link from the extreme nature of modern slavery and connections with extractive and abusive employment situations throughout the economy. While Modern Slavery is an extreme form of precarity, where people are controlled and forced to work, scholarship on precarity shows us that it is a spectrum disorder, where economic abandonment pushes people away from a liveable life.

Abstract

This chapter is an examination of what is meant by the term ‘Good Farmer’ and whether or not this is compatible with being a good businessperson. The term ‘Feckless Farmer’ is introduced to describe someone who is the opposite of a Good Farmer. And all of this is considered with reference to the farmers of the village of Ambridge in the West Midlands, with special emphasis on the practices of Brian Aldridge and his recent issues with contamination of his land and neighbouring watercourses. This work starts by defining key terms before moving on to consider the similarities and differences between farms and other types of businesses. The different philosophical paradigms that can underlie different definitions and practices of a Good Farmer are also explored. The ways that the economies of farms differ from most businesses will also be discussed. With some conclusions being drawn as to whether Mr Aldridge is a Good Farmer or a Feckless one, and if he deserved to be lauded as an award-winning businessperson.

Abstract

Many small businesses don't have the time or money to think about crisis communications, but latterly, events in Ambridge and surrounding areas have shown that even the smallest family enterprise can become headline news. This chapter illustrates how to inexpensively plan for the unforeseeable, how to project calm in the face of an agricultural storm and how to clear up the mess (toxic or otherwise) afterwards. The presentation studies known business-based issues in Ambridge such as the Low Mead incident and touches on individual communications calamities like Brian Aldridge's enforced retirement. It will also cover potential reputation management issues, for instance, the heir to a local hotel empire is arrested for dealing Class B narcotics. The session will provide valuable insight to anyone with an interest in the news, local or national. In conclusion, with a small amount of planning, the business people of Ambridge can ensure that it doesn't have to be a literal case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Section 3 Family Function and Dysfunction

Abstract

Social Work education has seen some changes since my first paper on how The Archers could be used to enhance a student's understanding of service user experiences (Burrows, 2016). Social Work students still, however, need to understand the difficulties that their future service users may experience; learning is developed through lectures, seminars and workshops, and most of all through practice experience, but a real challenge for educators is how to show students the constant lived reality of families and communities who have complex difficulties. A visit to a household only gives a snapshot of their life, and service users may be guarded in their behaviour during a professional visit. My original paper considered the educational value of the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ perspective of The Archers, in catching unguarded moments and drawing attention to issues in the community. From the impact of rural poverty and unaffordable housing, through issues of mental health, hospital discharge, to adult survivors of child sexual abuse and the tangled webs of modern slavery, these issues will resonate with any social worker, in Adult, Children and Families or Mental Health fields. These are not just issues in a rural setting; professionals in more urban settings will recognise these as things the families and individuals they work with must deal with from time to time.

Abstract

The parenting styles, or perhaps lack thereof, of Ambridge families is a much-talked about topic among The Archers listeners. This has been brought into keen focus recently with the parental role in, and reaction to, Ed and Emma Grundy's separation, and the intra- and inter-family dynamics of the Archers clans brought about by Peggy Woolley's Ambridge Conservation Trust. This chapter presents an Archers Assembly, based on the Citizens’ Assembly model, to pass judgement on the parenting styles of the matriarchs and family heads of key Ambridge clans. The Archers Assembly crowdsourced (through the Academic Archers Facebook group) considerations on: The Matriarchs, Peggy and Gill Archer; David and Ruth Archer; Pat and Tony Archer; Susan and Neil Carter; Jenny and Brian Aldridge; and Clarrie and Eddy Grundy. The chapter offers the evidence on each set, with a list of ‘for’ and ‘against’ cases, and quotes, from respondents.

Abstract

This chapter explores the fascinating relationship between the way we speak (our accents) and who we are (our identities) by investigating the ways in which accent is used in The Archers in the process of characterisation. It begins by describing the link between accent and identity in everyday life, arguing for a perspective in which the way we speak is seen as contributing to the active performance of our identities rather than something through which our identities are passively reflected. The main part of the chapter describes two small studies into the ways in which The Archers both uses and reinforces existing language-based stereotypes in order to help in its presentation of clear and recognisable characters.

Abstract

Much discussion has taken place in real life and in cyber space about the future of Henry Archer. He has been the subject of gossip, with the nature of his conception, and then gained a stepfather, seemingly a gentleman, who cared for both Henry and his mother. Coercive control came to dominate the relation between Rob Titchener and Helen Archer, giving an outward appearance of perfection in all aspects of family life. Henry experienced the gaslighting along with Helen and having seen his mum stab his new adoptive father, Henry was left without his mum, and in the care of evil Rob, effectively prevented from contact with his staid, and consistently caring grandparents. This paper will consider the impact of the trauma on Henry's potential psychological self as an older child and adolescent, looking at the impact of attachment, disparate parenting styles, social learning theory and domestic violence. There is also a comparison to a case study which could illustrate Henry's future, should he decide to begin a career in serial killing.

Abstract

Our perceptions of real crime, law and justice can be manipulated by fiction. This chapter addresses whether The Archers helps us better understand today's offenders, their crimes and its policing. Some of Ambridge's known offenders are split into three categories to help explore whether usual criminal story lines and characters, seen and heard elsewhere, are perpetuated or subverted in Borsetshire. If they support usual tropes, this tells us how we view the management of crime in the twenty-first century rural idyll: outsiders are not to be trusted, the misdemeanours of the pastoral poor are tolerated, and the actions of elites brushed aside. In Ambridge, we regularly hear examples of reintegrative shaming supporting desistance from crime. Those propping up the Bull's bar might disapprove of criminal actions, but they recognise people's roles in village cohesion. Sgt. Harrison Burns preserves his identity as a dedicated police officer. Being a rural copper often means having to deal with a wide range of crimes – from attempted murder to anti-social behaviour – but on a less frequent basis than those based in Felpersham. While Harrison might not have great detective skills, he regularly supports colleagues from specialist units, and as the only officer in the village, should use his social networks and tea spots to help maintain Ambridge's mostly orderly conduct. It is questionable to what extent he does this, being at times perceptive about and dismissive of clues to significant criminal activity going on under his nose.

Section 4 Housing and the Ambridge Fairy

Abstract

Finding a suitable home can be difficult in a constrained housing market such as small rural village. Within Ambridge, only a small proportion of the homes in the village is known about, and it is rare for additional homes to be added to those where named characters live. This chapter takes a generational view of housing pathways and options, showing how Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z populations in Ambridge are housed. The chapter examines the extent to which characters rely on friends or family for solving their housing problems and considers the role of family wealth and wider dependence in determining housing pathways. The research shows that dependence on others' access to property is by far the most pronounced feature of housing options for these households. These pathways and housing choices are compared to the wider context in rural England, to consider the extent to which luck, in the form of the mythical ‘Ambridge Fairy’, plays a role in helping people to find housing. The ways in which the Ambridge Fairy manifests are also considered – showing that financial windfalls, unexpectedly available properties and convenient patrons are more likely to be available to people with social capital and established (and wealthy) family networks. The specific housing pathway of Emma Grundy is reviewed to reflect on the way in which her housing journey is typical of the rural working-class experience of her generation, within the wider housing policy context.

Abstract

Ambridge residents live with extended kin and non-family members much more often than the population of the United Kingdom as a whole. This chapter explores cultural norms, economic need, and family and health care to explain patterns of coresidence in the village of Ambridge. In landed families, filial obligation and inheritance norms bind multigenerational families to a common dwelling, while scarcity of affordable rural housing inhibits residential independence and forces reliance on access to social networks and chance to find a home among the landless. Across the socioeconomic spectrum, coresidence wards off loneliness among unpartnered adults. Finally, for Archers listeners, extended kin and non-kin coresidence creates a private space where dialogue gives added dimensionality and depth to characters who would otherwise be known only through their interactions in public spaces.

Abstract

Care options for older people are important to individuals and to society, and currently, there is a crisis in this care. The chapter presents a research base projection onto the situation in England in 2045, using Office for National Statistics (ONS) modelling based on current population reaching the age of 85-years plus. We take three The Archers characters and fantasise about their lives in 2045, Shula and Kenton Archer and Hazel Woolley. Through them, we illustrate three options for care, namely, cared for by family members, buying in care in own home and moving into a care home. The financial aspects of these choices are explored.

Section 5 It Takes a Village…

Abstract

Who will lead Ambridge in the years to come? Theories rooted in psychology and political science, when applied to family dynamics in The Archers, allow for some educated guesses. Social learning theory suggests that children who see their parents vote, run for office and participate in other civic activities are more likely to do the same in adulthood. Emma Grundy did just that when she followed in the footsteps of her father, Neil Carter, in winning a seat on the parish council. Previous research has found that birth order also can shape future leaders, with the eldest child more likely to benefit developmentally from parents' undivided attention in the early years, and also more likely to establish a hierarchy of power over younger siblings. With these factors in mind, who are the most probable contenders to lead Ambridge in the spheres of politics, business and civic affairs? The extant research points to Pip Archer, Lily Pargetter, Phoebe Aldridge and George Grundy. The unique circumstances of Ruairi Donovan's childhood suggest he may also be a formidable candidate. And, as is the case in so many contexts, one would be wise not to overlook Molly Button.

Abstract

This study examines the discursive accounts of civil society in a rural English village to understand what these reveal about contemporary political discourses. It employs a critical discourse analysis of the conversational interactions of Ambridge residents. The sample comprised all recorded conversations referencing charities, volunteering and civic action drawn from the two-week period corresponding with the change in UK Prime Minister (July 2019). Using three analytical tools derived from extant theory, it considers the salient political ideology underpinning these social interactions. These tools are illustrated with earlier examples of individual civil activities such as the oat-based civil disobedience of a respected older resident. This analysis scrutinises the philanthropic nature of Peggy Woolley's Ambridge Conservation Trust. The fraught process of village fete planning is cited as exemplifying conventional decision-making mechanisms. Problems of staffing a community shop are considered in the light of an increasing political reliance on community volunteers replacing paid staff. Thus, the relative impact of Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and May are considered in exchanges between Ambridge residents from Lynda and Robert Snell to Jazzer McCreery and Jill Archer. The aim is to explore what Ambridge's civil society tells us about Boris Johnson's Britain.

Abstract

Ambridge has a population of around 700. Of these around 60 have voices heard by around 5 million people per week, a few are named but have no direct voice, and the rest are anonymous and unvoiced. This study explores the perceptions of this anonymous group and their ontological status. Purposive sampling recruited 16 representatives from a variety of demographic groups. Focus groups were used to gather data. A phenomenological approach within an interpretative paradigm was used, with an analytical lens of speculative ontology. Three main themes were identified from the data: the participants perceived an existential co-dependence with the voiced group; most resented their repression and aspired to having a voice, though they perceived this to involve a serious risk of adverse life events and concomitant psychological trauma; all expressed empathy towards the named but unvoiced group, perceiving that group to have an unfairly high risk of adverse life events without the opportunity to vocalise for themselves. The participants appeared to see three distinct classes within the society of the village (based on namedness and voicedness) which transcended the more generally accepted class divisions in UK society which are based on occupation. The unnamed population of Ambridge exists in a state of ontological tension, which is likely to have a negative impact on their psychological wellbeing. This study raises a question about the creator's moral responsibility for this group.

Index

Pages 337-348
Content available
Cover of Flapjacks and Feudalism
DOI
10.1108/9781800713864
Publication date
2021-03-16
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80071-389-5
eISBN
978-1-80071-386-4